The Los Angeles Lakers will be credited for one of the best free agent signings in league history because of their swoop on LeBron James in 2018. LeBron is definitely one of the greatest of all time, and for the Lakers to have lured him as a free agent is a monumental win for the franchise.
Nonetheless, the Purple & Gold have not always fared this well in the free agency market. They have had some memorable busts in the past, and we will be revisiting five of their worst free agent signings today. As a kind reminder, it’s certainly worth noting when a franchise has this much positive lore, there’s going to be a few misses in the process.
The Lakers signed 6-foot-9 big man Samaki Walker in 2001 after winning their second straight title. L.A. brought him hoping that he would provide a huge boost for the squad, especially since he was the ninth overall pick in the 1996 Draft. Things did not just pan out for Walker in Los Angeles, and to say that he failed to live up to expectations would be an understatement.
Nonetheless, Walker would still end up being a serviceable back up player, and was actually part of the 2002 championship run. In two uneventful seasons with the Lakers, Walker would average 5.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game in 21.3 minutes per contest.
Smush Parker will forever be part of Lakers folklore, but unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. The NBA journeyman would call L.A. his home for two seasons after the team signed him as a free agent in 2005. This was during the post-Shaquille O’neal era, at a time when the Lakers were still clawing their way back to glory.
Aside from being remembered as one of the most ineffective starting point guards in Lakers history, Parker is most well known for clashing with Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Kobe called him out in public on numerous occasions, and based on this alone, the Parker signing definitely brought more harm than good for the Lakers.
Even with all of this being said about the dude, did you know Smush Parker once saved the world? Well, kind of.
Dennis Rodman is widely considered as one of the best rebounders this league has ever seen, but perhaps few will remember that he actually played one season with the Lakers. This was during the tail end of the 6-foot-7 forward’s colorful career, and while he was no longer the beast he once was on the court, Rodman’s off the court antics were still on full display.
Rodman suited up for the Lakers during the infamous lockout season, which is why he was only able to play in a grand total of 23 games for L.A. He averaged 2.1 points and 11.2 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per ballgame. It wasn’t so much that he was bad as it was a limited time with the Purple and Gold toward the end of his career that prevented Rodman from avoiding this list of the worst free agent signings in Los Angeles Lakers franchise history.
Timofey Mozgov was part of the historic title run by the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and for reasons unknown, the Lakees decided to splash the cash on the 7-foot-1 big man as soon as he entered free agency that very summer. This came to the tune of a $64 million, four-year deal, which up to this very day still baffles us.
Mozgov would end up playing for just one season in L.A., averaging 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks, while also laughing all the way to the bank with the $16 million he earned that season.
If you thought the Mozgov signing was bad, then you’re definitely going to like this next one. The Lakers signed a 31-year-old Luol Deng as a free agent for $72 million on a four year deal. The kicker is that this was also the same offseason L.A. signed Mozgov. The Lakers obviously had some money to spend that summer, but the front office — then led by general manager Mitch Kupchak — failed miserably with their signings.
Deng averaged 7.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 0.9 steals that year, and it was abundantly clear that the Lakers had made a huge mistake by giving him that much money. In 2018, L.A. finally bought out Deng on a waive-and-stretch provision, meaning he will still be earning close to $5 million per year up to the 2021-22 season.
What are your thoughts on the worst free agent signings in Los Angeles Lakers franchise history? Let us know below in the comments!